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January 20, 2022
How to Increase GABA Naturally: Its Sleep Benefits, Signs of Deficiency, & More
GABA—or gamma-aminobutyric acid—is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, meaning that it prevents your nerve cells from firing an action potential (i.e. the body’s form of an electrical signal) (1). This makes it an exceptional amino acid for reducing stress and enhancing sleep.
Essentially, neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers of the body—carrying messages between nerve cells (neurons) and other cells in your body. There are excitatory neurotransmitters (like epinephrine and dopamine), inhibitory neurotransmitters (like GABA and melatonin), and modulatory neurotransmitters (like serotonin and dopamine).
These messengers are largely responsible for everything from mood to learning to automatic responses like breathing and heart rate. Without them, your brain and body wouldn’t know how to function.
Since GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, it makes for an effective nighttime sleep aid. The higher levels of GABA you have, the more relaxed you will feel—as opposed to being in that stressed-out fight or flight mode that happens when excitatory neurotransmitters are activated.
In this article, you’ll learn the benefits of GABA, the signs of deficiency, the recommended GABA dosage for sleep, and the best GABA supplement for sleep.
The Benefits of GABA
GABA, being the body’s primary inhibitory messenger, is found in several brain regions including the hippocampus, thalamus, basal ganglia, hypothalamus, and brain stem (1).
Its most renowned benefits include (2):
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- The regulation of one’s circadian rhythm
- An increase in total sleep time
- A decrease in the time it takes to fall asleep
- Enhanced memory
- Improved mood
- Regulation of motor control (like the coordination and movement of muscles, bones, and nerves)
One 2015 study gave 39 participants either GABA-enriched rice or a placebo for 10 weeks. Results showed that those eating the GABA rice saw an improvement in mental status and sleep quality, while overall stress gradually reduced (3).
In another study conducted in 2019, 30 participants were given either oolong GABA tea (containing 2.01 milligrams of GABA) or regular oolong tea (containing 0.25 milligrams of GABA). Their heart rate and stress were analyzed…
Both groups of tea drinkers experienced lower levels of stress; however, those drinking the GABA tea saw more relaxation, improved parasympathetic functioning, and a significant decrease in stress (4).
Signs of a GABA Deficiency
Although GABA deficiencies are fairly uncommon, it’s important to know what to look out for.
Low levels of GABA have been linked to the following (1):
- Acute and chronic stress
- Feelings of anxiety
- Sleep disturbances like insomnia
- Psychiatric conditions like schizophrenia
- Seizures and epilepsy
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Chronic pain
GABA Dosage for Sleep
Without enough GABA, one may experience heightened stress and anxiety, poor sleep, and more. Too much GABA, on the other hand, can lead to oversleeping, daytime sleepiness, and slow, ineffective breathing (5, 6).
Although there isn’t a set dosage for GABA at the moment, studies have been carried out that measure the sleep benefits of those taking between 100 and 300 milligrams (mg) of GABA for 1 to 4 weeks. Future research is needed in order to determine the minimum and optimum GABA dose needed to enhance sleep (2).
GABA’s Sleep-Enhancing Side Kick
Melatonin—also known as the sleep hormone—is another natural sleep aid that also happens to enhance GABA’s inhibitory effects (7). And because both melatonin and GABA are known to regulate sleep, they’re a dream team when it comes to getting deep, quality sleep.
Add in L-theanine, magnesium, and collagen, and you have a sleepytime tea that will have you feeling relaxed and ready for bed in as little as 30 minutes.
Uniquely crafted for those who toss and turn, have trouble falling asleep, or who just can’t seem to turn their brain off at night, Collagen PM provides deeper, longer, and more restorative sleep all night, every night.
The Bottom Line
Rather than turning to Benadryl or Xanax to fall asleep, incorporate a natural sleep aid like GABA into your bedtime routine. As an inhibitory neurotransmitter, it has the ability to prevent your nerve cells from firing—helping you to “turn off” your brain so that you can get peaceful, uninterrupted sleep.
In addition to this, GABA helps regulate your circadian rhythm, while significantly increasing rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep time—the stage of night when you’re likely to have vivid dreams (8).
By drinking a sleepytime tea (with just hot water and one scoop of Chocolate, Honey Chamomile, or Lemon Collagen PM), you’ll be able to get your nightly dose of GABA—along with melatonin, magnesium, L-theanine, and collagen—helping you to fall asleep in as little as 30 minutes.
Certified Health Coach and Head of Content at NativePath (aka I’m the gal responsible for ensuring that every blog we publish helps you live life a little more #OnThePath).
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.